History of The United States and Jamaica’s Disagreements

The flailing began with Jamaica’s prominence in the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which lays bare the country’s many transgressions. The report turns the spotlight on the “unusual handling of [Coke’s] extradition request” and notes the “dramatic change in Jamaica’s previous cooperation on extradition,”[2] including a temporary suspension in the processing of all other pending requests, which it says raises serious questions about the country’s commitment to combating transnational crime.[1]

Damningly, the report highlights the “guns for ganja” trade and labels the island “the Caribbean’s largest source of marijuana” for the United States and “a transit point for cocaine trafficked from South America,”[3] and cites its “high murder rate per capita–1,672 in 2013, one of the highest in the world.” It expresses concern over “the increasing activity of organized crime, which permeates the legitimate business sector as well as the political sector, and its impact on Jamaica’s political and economic stability.”

Despite assertions by the U.S. charge ‘d’affaires to Jamaica, Isaiah Parnell, that ties remain strong between the countries, Washington is growing weary of waiting and skeptical of the government’s political will. Despite Prime Minister Golding’s assertions that efforts are being made to strengthen bilateral cooperation to stem the tide of illegal guns and drugs, anti corruption and anti crime legislation still languishes in Parliament.

What Next?

To date, the United States has yet to appoint an ambassador to Jamaica, and recently, the visas of several prominent entertainers and businessmen have been revoked without warning. Many citizens are worried that U.S. visas will not be granted or renewed.

What options lay ahead for Coke, who resides in a storied mansion in the verdant suburbs of Kingston, miles away from the congested slums he purportedly commands?[6] His father, feared JLP strongman Lloyd Lester “Jim Brown” Coke, JLP enforcer and leader of the Shower Posse — that for over a decade funneled drugs and guns through the U.S. and Jamaica — also found himself in the same predicament. Coke Sr. died in a mysterious fire in his cell at the General Penitentiary on the eve of his own extradition in February 1991.[5]

Although the US government claims Jamaica is not doing nearly enough to curb its recent rise in drug activity, jis.gov.jm highlights the success of recent bills such as “The ‘Ganja Law’ or ‘Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015, which came into effect on April 15, makes possession of small quantities of marijuana (2 ounces or less) a non-arrestable, but ticketable offence that attracts no criminal record. It also puts in place, regulations for marijuana use by persons of the Rastafarian faith and for medical, therapeutic and scientific purposes, including development of a legal industry for industrial hemp and medical marijuana.”[4] Proponents of this bill claim that the decriminalization of marijuana would have created a safer route for dealing with young users by saving them from potentially staining their records for the rest of their lives.

The Political advisors continue to drag their feet as it continues before the Jamaica Supreme Court. Jamaica Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne has filed a motion seeking the declaration on the handling of the extradition request for Coke. A hearing is set for May 5th of this year.

As the high stakes game of chicken continues, a country waits: anxious, vigilant, hopeful.

[1] – Jamaica Information Service, “Revised Ganja Law Deemed ‘Fundamental’ and ‘Far-Reaching’”, https://jis.gov.jm/revised-ganja-law-deemed-fundamental-far-reaching/

[2] – US Department of State, “2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report”, https://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2019/

[3] – US Department of State, “Jamaica”, https://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2016/vol1/253277.htm

[4] – Jamaica Information Service, “Ganja Reforms Put Jamaica Ahead Of Other Countries”, https://jis.gov.jm/ganja-reforms-put-jamaica-ahead-of-other-countries/

[5] – Insight Crime, “Jamaica’s Organized Crime After the Fall of Dudus Coke”, https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/jamaicas-organized-crime-after-the-fall-of-dudus-coke/

[6] The New Yorker, “A Massacre in Jamaica”, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/12/12/a-massacre-in-jamaica